That's the mystery Emperor Justinian in-explicably sends his Lord Chamberlain John the Eunuch to solve, at the very time John desperately needs to clear himself of accusations he murdered a senator in the Hippodrome.
Mehenopolis, a pilgrim destination thanks to its ancient shrine to a snake deity as well as the home of the late sheep, is nearly as byzantine in its ways and undercurrents as Constantinople.
Among suspicious characters John encounters are a pretentious local landowner battling a self-styled magician for control of the lucrative shrine, an exiled heretical cleric, an itinerant bee-keeper, and a disgraced charioteer. Meanwhile, in Constantinople, John's good friend Anatolius does his best to trace the senator's murderer.
At stake are not only John's honor and his head, but also the family with whom he recently reunited, now in danger of being broken apartor worse.
Set in plague-ridden sixth-century Constantinople, Reed and Mayer's captivating sixth John the Eunuch novel (after 2004's Five for Silver) opens dramatically as John, lord chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, flees "excubitors" (i.e., palace guards) in the Hippodrome. Justinian's not-so-nice wife, Theodora, wants John prosecuted for a senator's murder, but the emperor has other ideas and spirits him away to the oasis town of Mehenopolis, Egypt, to look into a strange case of suicidal sheep. John soon suspects a link with another investigation for the emperor involving a valuable religious artifact. Filled with quirky characters, including a bee seller and a magician, this fresh entry with its intriguing details of Egyptian culture reveals further depths to the most clever John and his family members. A helpful glossary rounds out the book. (Nov.)
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Poisoned Pen Press
October 31, 2005
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